On a mild evening when intermittent showers made only a brief appearance, Rosecroft Raceway hosted the fifth edition of the $100,000 Potomac Pace Invitational last Sunday and many of the sport’s top older horses and drivers were on hand for the track’s signature event.
Each of the previous four editions of the Potomac Pace had also attracted quality fields and drivers and produced sub-1:50 winners and last Sunday’s renewal may have been the deepest and most contentious yet in both equine and human categories. Not only did this year’s Potomac attract the division leader, it landed three of the top four finishers in the Oct. 31, $500,000 Breeders Crown Open at Hoosier Park.
Bettor’s Wish (Dexter Dunn driving) was made the prohibitive 1-5 favorite from post five despite being the beaten choice in the Breeders Crown final two weeks earlier. The four-year-old Bettor’s Delight stallion trained by Chris Ryder was last year’s three-year-old pacing colt champion and the solid favorite to garner divisional honors.
Backstreet Shadow (Tim Tetrick) and This Is The Plan (Yannick Gingras) both represented the powerful Ron Burke stable and both drew alongside one another in posts one and two, respectively. This Is The Plan was the solid 4-1 second choice, while Backstreet Shadow garnered little respect and was the 10-1 fourth choice, one point higher than Harambe Deo.
When the gate folded for the outset of the $100,000 Potomac Pace, Stars Align A (Corey Callahan) left very alertly from the far outside and cleared This Is The Plan and Backstreet Shadow before the opener in a wicked 25.1. Bettor’s Wish got away fourth then angled out second over behind Backstreet Shadow as Stars Align A rolled by the half in 52.4.
Stars Align A continued to show the way down the backside amid mild pressure from Backstreet Shadow, with This Is The Plan tucked snugly in the pocket as Bettor’s Wish loomed up second over and Leonidas A (Austin Sielgelman) slipped out third over as the long shot leader rolled by three-quarters in an eye-opening 1:19.3.
Midway on the far turn, Stars Align A still had something left but Bettor’s Wish launched his bid three-wide and swept to command but he would soon had company from Leonidas A who loomed a danger while angling to the center of the track. In fact, Leonidas A was able to wear down the odds-on choice and edge past Bettor’s Wish in the final strides for a neck score in 1:48 flat.
A five-year-old Mach Three gelding trained by Sheena McElheny for owner Jesmeral Stable, Leonidas A notched his fourth win in his last five starts and now boasts 13 wins from 24 seasonal outings with over $150,000 banked. Leonidas A lowered his lifetime mark by three full seconds and just missed equalling the all-age track record of 1:47.3 set three years ago by Keystone Velocity in the second edition of the Potomac.
“When I heard that Bettor’s Wish was going to be in it, I thought this was going to be a tough step up for him,” McElheny said. “He had beaten the Open horses at Plain Ridge then beat the Open horses at Yonkers which is tough to do. But this was a really tough field, but he was coming into it so good.”
“I could not have mapped it out any better,” Siegelman said. “I steered him to the rail hoping to get a check. But he was moving really well. When I angled him off cover turning for home and showed him some race track I knew he was going by Bettor’s Wish. He’s the best horses that I’ve ever driven and that’s the biggest win for me.”
Bettor’s Wish was clearly second best in defeat and will head to the Meadowlands this Saturday for the $500,000 TVG Final, which will be the last start of his career. Bettor’s Wish will stand stud at Diamond Creek Farm in Pennsylvania beginning in 2021 after concluding his career with over $2.5 million banked, considerably more than his initial $20,000 yearling purchase price.
One race later in the overnight feature, Jack Quick (Jason Thompson) continued his good recent form when he forged a mild 7-1 upset in the $12,000 Open. A five-year-old Nuclear Breeze gelding owned, bred and trained by Basil Sapienza, Jack Quick notched his second straight victory and now owns a 13-11-5 slate and over $85,000 banked from 55 career tries.